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Maine Development Foundation

Press Release

Maine Development Foundation Announces Champions of Economic Development Award Winners


August 3rd, 2017

We are honored to announce this year’s Champions for Economic Development Award winners: Aroostook Aspirations, Maine Startup & Create Week, Robbins Lumber, and UniTel and Unity Foundation. Awards will be presented at the Maine Development Foundation Annual Meeting on September 28, 2017.

The Champion for Economic Development Award was created to recognize the exceptional work of an individual or organization in advancing the strategic priorities of the Maine Development Foundation as we work to strengthen the Maine economy, increase the productivity of our workforce and realize the vision of a high quality of life for all Maine people.  The purpose of these awards is to celebrate outstanding efforts to promote economic development in Maine.

Winners must meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated commitment to economic growth in Maine at the state, regional or local level.
  • Demonstrated ability to collaborate and create partnerships in order to accomplish objectives.
  • High professional standards that model behavior for others. 
  • Innovativeness of idea/approach to economic development.

Aroostook Aspirations

Aroostook Aspirations Initiative is a non-profit that works to address Maine’s skilled labor shortage and improve the region’s prosperity by supporting the educational goals of young people in the region. AAI focuses on supporting the academic and professional endeavors of Aroostook County students to help reduce outmigration, increase degree attainment, and boost the region’s economy. Each year, AAI awards at least one student from each of Aroostook County’s 16 high schools a renewable $1,000 scholarship and support services.  AAI provides a comprehensive Gauvin Scholar program for college success and leadership development.  AAI has welcomed 67 scholars into their program since 2014; launched the Internship Hub of Aroostook in 2015; adopted and redeveloped Opportunities Aroostook; developed trainings to improve educational and professional success; and hosted community events all over Aroostook County.  

Maine Startup & Create Week

Founded in 2014, Maine Startup & Create Week is a national conference that convenes founders, employees, supporters, and enthusiasts of high-growth, high-impact startups and innovative companies. Each year the conference’s dynamic program convenes speakers from both inside and outside of Maine on the trends, skills, and technology involved in building innovative companies. MSCW’s all-volunteer team spends over 15,000 hours building and coordinating over 60 events featuring over 100 speakers. The event has brought together more than 10,000 attendees from over 30 states over its first four years.  The conference and attention from national media have put Maine on the map as not just a great place to live, but a great place to build a startup and innovative company.

Robbins Lumber:

Robbins Lumber is a family owned forestry, lumber and wood products business.  In continuous operation since 1881, Robbins’ commitment to responsible forest-economy practices helps protect Maine’s environment and the vital forest products industry.  In 2016, Robbins employed approximately 100 people in its woodland and sawmill operations.  Robbins’s ingenuity and dedication to Maine’s people, economy, and environment is further demonstrated by the February announcement of the building of a biomass plant, which advances the forest industry towards stability in a rapidly changing landscape.  The construction of the facility is estimated to generate a total economic impact of nearly $21 million, supporting nearly 170 full-time equivalent jobs earning nearly $7.7 million in pay and benefits. The anticipated increased demand for biomass is expected to increase sales for logging contractors by $2.6 to $4.1 million per year, preserving 25 to 40 full-time equivalent logging industry jobs.

UniTel and Unity Foundation

UniTel, Inc. is an independent provider of reliable broadband and telecommunications services in Central Maine serving over 5,000 households and businesses.  Unity Foundation was founded in 2000 to provide support to Maine’s non-profits working in youth, education, economic development, environment, and arts and culture.  The Foundation has awarded more than $18 million in grants to Maine’s nonprofit sector and partners with other funders and for-profit businesses to support Maine’s rural economies.  Recognizing that fluency in modern technology is a requirement in today’s high-speed, interconnected world, UniTel and the Unity Foundation have since 2015 partnered to bring cutting-edge technology and educational opportunities to the region.  In a first-in-the-state digital literacy program, free classes on a range of topics were made available to area residents and businesses, with over 1,100 students logging over 4,950 hours of classroom instruction.



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